How to Pronounce “LL” and “Y” in Spanish

How to Pronounce LL and Y in Spanish

Today, I bring you a video that I have wanted to make for a long time, but I find it challenging to explain. It’s about the pronunciation of LL and Y. At first, you students learn it in a very soft way; I’m not exactly sure why. Then, little by little, as you practice with teachers or native speakers, listening to podcasts, audiobooks, etc., you start to notice that the pronunciation is not exactly that, or that sometimes it is, but other times it isn’t. And of course, it’s normal for this to be very confusing for you.

In this video, I talk to you about this. I’m not going to lie, it’s not a 3-minute video where I just say, ‘It’s pronounced like this, repeat after me.’ I do this at the end, meaning you’ll have an exercise at the end to practice. However, first, I will go through a bit of the history of these consonants, then the pronunciations by regions and phonetic contexts, and finally, my recommendation on how to pronounce them.


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Generally, the double ‘LL’ in Spanish words causes confusion. At first, students tend to pronounce it like an ‘L’. Then, they start to hear it but pronounce it very softly, and that’s when they ask, ‘How do you pronounce a ‘Y’ in Spanish as well?’ The confusion begins. ‘Wait a minute, I thought they were two different sounds, teacher. Are you pronouncing them the same way? And why?’ ‘Teacher, the Spanish ‘LL’ pronunciation: is it a ‘Y’ or a ‘J’ sound?‘ Well… this question is even more confusing for me, for reasons that you will understand after watching my video.

The topic that always intrigues me is at what point the Spanish student heard a different sound for ‘LL’ and ‘Y.’ In the case of English speakers, I believe it’s never. I think that at the beginning, learning pronunciation, verb conjugation, and vocabulary can be overwhelming. 

So, the native English-speaking mind decides to use its own tongue to pronounce these letters and doesn’t really hear that both letters sound the same. The reality is that in many cases, I observe that only when the student has already started learning the language do they begin to notice something odd. For example, I ask them about the weather in their city, and they try to tell me that it’s raining, and I repeat the word ‘lloviendo’ or the word ‘llueve,’ and they look at me strangely. They don’t understand why I’m making that sound. The reality is that I’ve been making that sound the entire class and the previous classes every time I say ‘yo,’ but they hadn’t noticed until now.

Teacher, how do you pronounce the consonants ‘y’ and ‘ll’?” Here we go. This is the right question. I have heard many rumors about this, with titles like ‘LL – Lawless Spanish Pronunciation.’ It’s not exactly that there isn’t a rule; actually, there is the pronunciation in many areas of Argentina and Uruguay on one hand, and on the other, the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. What happens is that in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, we have two forms: one that is stronger and one that is softer.

I completely understand that for English speakers, there are too many different forms, but the reality is that between that stronger sound and the softer one, the native speaker only hears the same range of phonetic context included in ‘LL’ and ‘Y.’ So, when you ask us to repeat the word ‘llover’ and the word ‘pollo,’ you often hear two different sounds, but for us, it’s not exactly like that. For us, the first one is stronger and the second one is softer due to the relaxation of being in the middle of the word and between vowels.

In this video, first, I am going to explain that they have two different origins: one Latin and the other Greek. Initially, they had different pronunciations. Nowadays, there are some areas where there is a distinction in pronunciation between ‘LL’ and ‘Y,’ but it is not the original distinction they had. These places are the center and north of Castilla-León in Spain, and the other area is the Andean region in South America. However, the reality is that for most of us, the pronunciation is the same all the time, only with differences where one form is more exaggerated and the other softer.

As you will see in the video, I always recommend the more exaggerated form because you will hear an example word that can cause confusion when native speakers hear Spanish students pronounce ‘LL’ and ‘Y’ too softly, as if they were an ‘i.’ This is problematic, and I observe that this is the pronunciation you fixate on from a very early stage in learning my language. I challenge you to change it to be better understood in the future. Master the LL & Y in Spanish

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